Good show from the Sharks at their last event of the season
Harpenden National Pub Sevens
The Sharks arrived at Fort Blockhouse on Friday afternoon to commence training for probably the hardest event of the season - the National Pub 7s at Harpenden. All the players were put through their paces working hard on set plays to deliver frantic rugby which the 7s side of the game is renowned for. The positive attitude continued throughout the weekend with further training sessions held on Saturday before the trip to Harpenden. Before the tournament began awards were made to a number of select players; Ben Jeacock was awarded the most valued player, Gavin Elsam breakout player and James Sutton the top try scorer. The Sharks line up for this tournament included all players who had played a least one tournament already this season and they were boosted by the return of Jarrard Hayler. The Sharks arrived at Harpenden knowing it was going to be a tough day, 20 top teams including both Apache sides (Raiders and Braves) and the Samurai Bulldogs had entered the event and were split into 5 groups. The Sharks were placed in a group with Billy’s Seven Dwarfs, the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies and the Oddsocks.
The first game of the day was against Billy’s Seven Dwarfs. They were a well-drilled side with lots of experience. The first half was a tentative affair with both sides showing great defence and communication between the players but the Sharks were a little sharper which enabled them to score the only points of the half through a well taken try from Jarrard Hayler 7-0 HT. The second half started, again at a very high tempo and Seva Naulago, the Sharks captain for the day, bossed the field and was able to dictate the pace of the game. The Dwarfs were unable to match the Sharks and further scores from James Sutton and Gareth Rees allowed the Sharks to finish the game 19-5 FT.
After a brief rest the next opponents were the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies. The Sharks started well with tries from Sam Benzie and Jarrard Hayler from the first two plays. The Sharks stuck to their systems and they were able to add more tries from Ben Jeacock and James Sutton. The Sharks were in full control of the half and just before the whistle Jarrard Hayler added his second of the game to finish the half 33-0 up. With the changes made the Sharks were able to dominate the second half in the same way, they maintained a professional approach and stuck to their set pieces in such an open running game and let the ball do the work. Tries from Gareth Rees, Tristan Trehan, James Sutton and Ben Jeacock further cemented the result 59-5 FT.
Feeling confident after the previous test the Sharks were focused on their final opponents in the group stage, the Oddsocks. A win for the Sharks would ensure a quarterfinal place in the cup. The Oddsocks offered the Sharks a real test of character, the first half was tough with the Sharks scoring through Ben Jeacok which was converted by James Sutton 7-0, but before the Sharks could add more pressure the Oddsocks hit back with a well worked try to finish the half 7-5 HT. The second half started frantically with both sides probing but some poor discipline resulted in Wilson Curtis being yellow carded. Great defence from Semi Tabanivesi and Marika Lavelawa kept the Oddsocks at bay however the Sharks managed to make the game harder for themselves with both James Sutton and Jarrard Hayler finding their way to the sin bin to join Curtis. This gave the Oddsocks the breakthrough they needed to score 7-10. Then Gavin Elsam proved why he was awarded the Sharks breakout player of the season with some superb tackling before Wilson Curtis was able to make up for his little rest to score and finish the game 12-10 which resulted in the Sharks topping the group and progressing to the Quarter Finals.
Having won the group the Sharks were pitted against the Racing Academy 7s who had previously beaten the Sharks at Slough 7s earlier this season. The Sharks started focused and determined to avenge that result and continue through the competition. The sides were well matched in ability and skill with Racing Academy scoring first out wide 0-5, but the Sharks were able to match the score with a great team try finished by Wilson Curtis just before half time 5-5. After the half time break the action continued but a serious injury to a Racing Academy player forced the game to be moved to another pitch. This did not disrupt the focus of the Sharks and Curtis added another score to his tally and then Seva Naulago added his try to the score sheet 17-5. The Racing Academy players did rally with a try, 17-12, but the Sharks were too strong and the game finished 17-12 and the Sharks progressed to the Semi Final.
The Semi Final vs Apache Raiders was very much a agme of two halves with the first being completely dominated by the Raiders. The Sharks were unable to leave their 22m area. They defended well and were fortunate that when the Raiders scored they were forced to remain out wide and failed to convert their 3 tries and at half time the score was 0-15. The second half was the complete opposite with the game being played just outside the Raiders 22m area. Tries from Seva Naulago and James Sutton were both converted and the Sharks were back in the game. They kept the pressure on and the penalty tally increased. A rare misunderstanding from the Sharks resulted in a tap and go when a drop goal would have won the game, and with the Raiders holding firm the Sharks were kept at bay and the Raiders secured a narrow victory 14-15.
As the Sharks left the field they were given a fully deserving ovation from the large crowd (the only one of the day) showing just how well they had performed not just in the semi final but throughout the day. To lose narrowly to one of the best 7s teams on the amateur circuit is nothing to be disappointed about. The young Sharks’ team could hold their heads up high and be proud of what they have achieved this summer 1 x Cup Winners, 2 x Plate Winners and 2 x other finals.
Message to players from Head Coach: Sili Buinimasi
“I would like to say a big thank you and show my appreciation to everyone involved this weekend. Without your sacrifices and commitment I’m sure we wouldn’t have enjoyed what we have this past couple of days. Please pass on our massive thanks to your loved ones and families who have been behind us and supported us throughout this season. A special mention to James Sutton who’s leaving the Sharks family for greener pastures today, from all of the Sharks we wish you all the best in the future. It’s a shame that our season has come to an end today but I truly believe that we played our best game of the season in that last 7 minutes of the cup semi final against a very experienced Apache side who have been playing together for numerous seasons. I asked that we enjoy today as it’s our last tournament together and I believe we certainly did. We finished on a high and from me I believe that we are only going to get better from here on and with that in mind the onus is on us to build for better and greater things next season.”
Squad: Ben Jeacock, Gavin Elsam, James Sutton, Jarrard Hayler, Wilson Curtis, Marika Lavelawa, Lee Benzie, Sam Benzie, Semi Tabanivesi, Seva Naulago(Captain), Tristan Trehan.
The Sharks would like to say a massive thank you to all personnel involved with them this season, your help and assistance has been greatly appreciated.
If you feel you have the ability and commitment to be involved with the Sharks next season we would like to hear from you, we are already working hard for next season and are always looking for new talent Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by Guy Pallet and Nathan Moore
Images © John Walton